Accordion Noir 2009-02-06: Rowan At The Movies
Publication date 2009-02-06
Accordion Noir: Playlist: February 6th, 2009: Accordions in the Cinema!
Welcome to the essay-like playlist for the long-delayed posting of our first annual Accordion Noir movie soundtrack themed special! Rowan scrounged up most of the material constituting the show, so he's also eventually gotten around to sharing his sources and other choice tidbits of trivia that got left on the cutting room floor in the heat of the moment.
We opened with a compilation of sounds from Schulze Gets the Blues ( 2003, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schultze_Gets_the_Blues ), starting with the radio-surfing scene of his epiphanic first exposure to zydeco (viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ9gC-okdKY ) and then compounded with the soundtrack from its teaser trailer (viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXQyj4NumYc )
Next I chatted a bit over the bathroom squeezebox interlude from Gummo ( 1997, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gummo ) which can be seen and appreciated in all its strangeness up at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LlPUxI8QYs
Following that, still in an introductory frame of mind I ushered in a tasty slice of Astor Piazzolla's Introduccion to Suite Punta del Este, used for excellent atmospheric effect as a theme motif of sorts in Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys ( 1995, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Monkeys )
We'd been waiting for some time to play the next track, "Daughter" performed by Loudon Wainwright III (but written by Peter Blegvad -- Loudon's own daughter, Martha Wainwright, named a 2004 EP in homage to her pappy, but since its name might be considered unprintable by genteel media outlets, we shall here abbreviate its name to BMFA... keeping in mind that MFing is what fathers do!) Daughter was used to great effect in the 2007 movie Knocked Up ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knocked_Up ) and can be heard on its "music from and inspired by" album "Strange Weirdos".
Next up we played a theme from "It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown" written (and presumably performed) by David Benoit ( 2000, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_the_Pied_Piper,_Charlie_Brown ), though performed in-film by Snoopy, who is well known for playing Polkas, Schottisches and Waltzes on his concertina atop his doghouse... which you can hear him musically tumbling off of at the conclusion of this piece.
On the topic of "music from and inspired by" movies, the rendition of A Whale of a Tale we aired (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1954, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20,000_Leagues_Under_the_Sea_(1954_film) ) was not the version featured in the movie (a clip from which, including the comically low singer and a final verse, can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyMwpmvM1E4 ) but as it still featured star Kirk Douglas singing and a more squeezeboxy sound, it fit the bill.
While on the Disney-animation theme, we followed that up with Michael Giacchino's "Welcome to Gusteau's" from Ratattouille ( 2007, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratatouille_(film) )
... then we skipped lightly from Pixar over to another recent animation smash, "Bruno's Theme" by Benoît Charest from Les Triplets de Belleville ( 2003, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Triplettes_de_Belleville )
Also from an animated film (an accidental good fit -- I just liked the sound of it) is the Tosca Tango Orchestra's rendition of Lastima Grande as heard in Richard Linklater's 2001 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waking_Life)
Following that segment we left animation behind and played "Daddy's Gone" in-film-context from Emir Kusturica's 1998 movie Black Cat, White Cat ( Црна мачка, бели мачор / Crna mačka, beli mačor, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Cat,_White_Cat ) -- the scene in question can be observed 2:30 into http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRZpc27v9w8
In one of our more esoteric finds, Bruno S. rocks out on a glockenspiel and accordion simultaneously in a scene from Werner Herzog's 1977 Stroszek ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroszek) , a film written around the instinctive performing of this wonderful and crazy outsider, just recently profiled some 30 years after the fact by the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/25/arts/design/25abroad.html -- meanwhile, the clip can be not only heard but also seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HzKrBd3BR8
We then played a frustrating hackjob medley of Follow the River / You Can't Get Far Without A Railroad performed by Jimmy Stewart in the 1957's Western movie Night Passage ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Passage ) -- our source material can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoODLQ9Dklw and an extended version of "You Can't Get Far" including the dramatic use of accordion to enact a quick getaway can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jk-uRQjj0k
Making a radical departure from prior items on the playlist, we next dished up a live soundtrack performance intended to accompany a silent film screening. Rather than a period score, however, this was a modern (2007) composition ("Weather Conditions") paired with a 1928 film (Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamboat_Bill_Jr.), performed by the Kenosha Kid. There is a website at http://southernshelter.com/2007/10/kenosha-kid-steamboat-bill-jr-cine.html dedicated to this soundtrack and hosting links facilitating watching the (now public domain) movie in synchronization with its new soundtrack.
Its tangled history was covered on the air, so I'll just note that next up we played music from the Rheostatics' soundtrack to the 1994 film Whale Music ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_Music_(film) )
Then we had a very frustrating snippet of "Siniy Platochek" (Blue Scarf) performed by John Hurt's character in Dark City ( 1998, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_City_(1998_film) )... it can only go so far to address the frustration, but you can view it in context at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIIfQNRTjBI
We couldn't get around playing something from it, so next up was "Les Jours Tristes" from Yann Tiersen's mega-hit soundtrack to Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain ( 2001, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am%C3%A9lie), the movie that re-opened so many people once again to the possibilities of what accordions have to offer.
We revisited les Triplettes de Belleville with the Barber Song, a song very different in tone from the one we played earlier (and just another representation from a hugely diverse soundtrack, including a jazzy take on Glenn Gould's Bach renditions and a song performed on a vacuum cleaner).
After that, we shared two back-to-back versions of Juan D'Arienzo's "Milonga de Mis Amores" from Sally Potter's 1997 The Tango Lesson ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tango_Lesson ), the first of which is conducted in a rainstorm (no, that wasn't the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan 8) and the second of which has ambience of a ballroom. It turns out that as wonderful as tango music is to listen to, it is even better to watch people dancing to, and so the music can be seen in-context at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uKNEgEVREY
A big, strange clip followed, a medley of songs Shirley Evans played on the Magical Mystery Tour bus (Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye, The Happy Wanderer, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along, Never on Sunday, and Offenbach's Can Can) from the Beatles' 1967 travel movie ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Mystery_Tour_(film) ) ... not that context will help, but the group singalong can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZvYk-VEzOU , followed by the clip in which the Bonzo Dog Band eventually give Death Cab for Cutie their name. Of great help and interest with this item was the exhaustive essay on free-reed use in the Beatles' discography located at http://www.ksanti.net/free-reed/essays/beatles.html
We then played a purported clip from Shirley's Wild Accordion by the Rubber Soul Project ( 1996, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_Soul_Project )
A few more items round out our strange hour-long trip through squeezebox cinema; here we have a promotional bit for a movie that isn't even out yet, the trailer for A Few Accordions Short of a Record (viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhzZJ5OMmyU ) ... if we're lucky, we may eventually serve up a screening of the film, a documenting of the annual Old-Time Accordion Festival in Kimberley, BC.
Then we had a very brief moment from The Last King of Scotland ( 2006, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_King_of_Scotland_(film) ) in which Forrest Whittaker channel's Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Since we couldn't get our hands on Amin's own soundtrack to his 1974 biopic General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idi_Amin_Dada_(1974_film)) -- though look, it seems to be up on YouTube! here's a clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReLwUhNh2fU -- this was the closest we got.
Due to poor record-keeping, I can't tell you which song from Nino Rota's soundtrack to Fellini's 1973 movie Amarcord ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amarcord ) we did play you, but the ones we /should/ have played were La Gradisca Si Sposa E Se Ne Va or Le Manine Di Primavera, both of which have choice, juicy accordion parts.
Rounding the corner, we shared Radio Head performed by the Talking Heads and Esteban Jordan from True Stories ( 1986, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Stories_(film) )
And then, we wrapped it up with a sweet little slice from Apollonia, from Nino Rota's soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather ( 1972, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather ). Wikipedia tells me that Rota was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film, but was removed from consideration after it came to light that he'd re-used a musical theme he'd employed earlier in the 1958 movie Fortunella. Strangely, he was nominated for the award (and won!) for The Godfather Part II in 1974, despite that score also using the same theme.
Cut! And that's a wrap!
This episode's cover should be Jacob Sewell as Bunny-boy on the poster of Gummo!
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